Navigation Links
Study finds promising drug treatment for improving language, social function in people with autism

COLUMBIA, Mo. Most drug therapy interventions for people with autism have targeted psychiatric problems, including aggression, anxiety and obsessive behavior. Now, University of Missouri researchers are examining the use of propranolol (a drug used to treat high blood pressure and control heart rate as well as to reduce test anxiety) to improve the primary traits associated with autism difficulty with normal social skills, language and repetitive behaviors. MU researchers say the drug is a promising new avenue for improving language and social function.

"We can clearly say that propranolol has the potential to benefit language and may help people with autism function appropriately in social situations, including making eye contact with others," said David Beversdorf, associate professor and Thompson Endowed Chair at the MU Thompson Center for Autism and Neurodevelopmental Disorders. "Enhancing both language and social function is significant because those are two of the three main features of autism. Clinical trials will assess the drug's effect on all three features, including repetitive behaviors."

Propranolol has been used for decades with minimal side effects reported in healthy individuals. The MU researchers are the first to study the benefits of the drug in autism in a controlled manner. The next step is to conduct clinical trials to determine if the benefits are sustained over time and if the benefits outweigh other effects.

Propranolol acts by reducing the effect of norepinephrine brought on by stress in order to allow the brain to function as if there is no stress. This is beneficial for persons who have trouble with test taking. In people with autism, the brain is hardwired in a different way, making processing more rigid in terms of social function and language. The researchers think that the drug acts on these hardwired processes and therefore, improves tasks and functioning in these areas.

"When healthy persons are under stress their neurons fire in an expedited manner, to respond quickly to the stressor, that does not allow input from remote sources," Beversdorf said. "Unfortunately when trying to solve difficult problems, we need information from remote sources. For example, if we come in contact with a tiger, we are programmed to respond quickly and run away. However, this fight or flight response isn't as helpful in today's society because instead of facing a tiger, we are taking an exam or giving a speech. Evidence suggests that individuals with autism have a similar difficulty accessing input from remote sources regardless of the presence of stress when using language and communicating."

In previous studies, the researchers found that propranolol helped people with autism solve simple anagrams, word unscrambling tasks. It also increased semantic word fluency, which requires understanding the definition of words and connectivity among different brain regions. It did not help with letter fluency, which involves identifying words that start with specific letters and requires less distributed connectivity among brain regions.

"We are interested to see if we can predict who will or will not respond to this drug among those with autism," Beversdorf said. "In the follow-up study, we're looking at markers of increased stress reactivity. If we find that those with higher stress reactivity are more sensitive to the effects of propranolol, it might help to identify who will benefit most from the drug."

Beversdorf is a physician and faculty member at MU in the departments of Radiology, Neurology and Psychological Sciences. The study, "Effect of Propranolol on Word Fluency in Autism," was published in Cognitive and Behavior Neurology.


Contact: Emily Martin
University of Missouri-Columbia

Related biology news :

1. Vanderbilt ethicist to study return of results issue involving children in genomics studies
2. Wildlife Conservation Society study uncovers a predictable sequence toward coral reef collapse
3. US Forest Service study finds hemlock still abundant despite adelgid infestation
4. NIH-funded study connects gene variant to response to asthma drugs
5. Study puts a new spin on ibuprofens actions
6. University of Arizona to study human-fire-climate interactions
7. Aquarium fishes are more aggressive in reduced environments, a new study finds
8. Harvard School of Public Health awarded $20 million CDC grant to study HIV prevention in Botswana
9. Twin study reveals epigenetic alterations of psychiatric disorders
10. Causes of Gulf War Illness are complex and vary by deployment area -- Baylor University study
11. Study finds bidirectional relationship between schizophrenia and epilepsy
Post Your Comments:
Related Image:
Study finds promising drug treatment for improving language, social function in people with autism
(Date:4/26/2016)... India and LONDON ... Infosys Finacle, part of EdgeVerve Systems, a product ... and Onegini today announced a partnership to integrate ... solutions.      (Logo: ... to provide their customers enhanced security to access ...
(Date:4/14/2016)... BioCatch ™, the global ... the appointment of Eyal Goldwerger as CEO. ... Goldwerger,s leadership appointment comes at a time of significant ... of its platform at several of the world,s largest ... unique cognitive and physiological factors, is a winner of ...
(Date:3/23/2016)... , March 23, 2016 ... erhöhter Sicherheit Gesichts- und Stimmerkennung mit Passwörtern ... (NASDAQ: MESG ), ein führender ... das Unternehmen mit SpeechPro zusammenarbeitet, um erstmals ... Finanzdienstleistungsbranche, wird die Möglichkeit angeboten, im Rahmen ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:6/23/2016)... SILVER SPRING, Md. , June 23, 2016 ... evidence collected from the crime scene to track the criminal ... sick, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) uses ... Sound far-fetched? It,s not. ... whole genome sequencing to support investigations of foodborne illnesses. Put ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... , June 23, 2016   EpiBiome , ... secured $1 million in debt financing from Silicon Valley ... up automation and to advance its drug development efforts, ... new facility. "SVB has been an incredible ... the services a traditional bank would provide," said Dr. ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... NEWPORT BEACH, Calif. , June 23, 2016 /PRNewswire/ ... offering new biological discoveries to the medical community, has ... and co-founder Matthew Nunez . "We ... provide us with the capital we need to meet ... funding will essentially provide us the runway to complete ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... ... June 23, 2016 , ... Velocity Products, a division ... tuned and optimized exclusively for Okuma CNC machining centers at The International Manufacturing ... collaboration among several companies with expertise in toolholding, cutting tools, machining dynamics and ...
Breaking Biology Technology: